Hungry Already?

So it’s Friday and that means I skip lunch and have an early dinner of hearty soup and bread with my students around 5pm.

And it’s not even noon and I’m already hungry.

Fasting and dieting have never been high on my list of practices, always doing the minimum. But I’m really considering the dignity aspect of not being able to find food when one is poor. I can go to the supermarket or my pantry and find something to nibble on most days and naturally choose what I like to eat. How many people don’t have that luxury?

So today I will be in solidarity with them today and only eat what is given to me. Relying on the sustenance that God will provide for my mere day of hunger.

We fast because we can. How many more would not be able to fast because they already are fasting…each day?

One Word: Respect

Day #6: of the Fast, Pray, Give Calendar:

So I’ll be honest, I forgot to look this morning at the FPG Calendar and I was cranky for most of the morning because I wasn’t exactly mindful.

But at the end of the day, I was able to spend some time in mindfulness and offered the day to God anyway.

In hindsight the calendar asked of me the following:

FAST from being disrespectful to anyone you encounter today.

PRAY that every experience today is an opportunity for you to exercise respect, grace, and charity.

GIVE unconditional love and kindness to someone who challenges you today.

Well, it turns out that I was able to do this anyway. And a few times during the day I was tempted to disrespect a few folks and I didn’t take that opportunity. So perhaps, God whispers to me anyway and I’m becoming more mindful despite the morning busyness that I had today.

In fact, a student I was with in the afternoon was quite disrespectful to one of my colleagues and we all noticed it and were surprised to see his classmates call him on it.

My opportunity to give came with many friends and colleagues today when I was able to show them appreciation and love for all they do for me. We spent many hours today really listening to one another, our challenges and our solutions in overcoming obstacles in our lives and jobs.

My friend, Fr. Steven Bell, CSP also called me today to discuss an upcoming trip I’m taking to visit him and speak at St Paul’s. I noticed that when I said something self-depricating, Fr. Steve would immediately debunk that thought, turning my negativity into a positive. I was able to hold that with me for most of the day and it was my moment of gratitude during my evening examen tonight.

I also began to self-depricate thinking that the Theology on Tap event we hosted tonight might not have many attendees. Instead, we had many more than we expected. Not a huge crowd, but better than we had thought.

It seems, more often than not, that the one I least respect just might be me. And perhaps lent is God’s time to nudge me away from that and into a more wonderful space where God can show me all that I am and know that I am more than enough.

Change Me, Lord

Prayer doesn’t change God, prayer changes us. Kathleen Norris, the great spiritual writer was featured in the BustedHalo Fast, Pray, Give calendar today and she mentions that when we pray we ask to be changed as opposed to asking God to change something with no effort on our part, as a kind of magical being who performs at our beck and call.

Lent indeed is the stuff of this attitude. What is it that needs to die in order for us to move into a new way of being. To change for the better is what lent calls each one of us.

For myself, I have a tendency to jump to negative conclusions. I often move into the half-empty mode before gathering enough information or clarifying what others say to me.

When we begin to change attitudes, we start to see healthier options and options that lead us to more greatly respect ourselves as well as others. We begin to see how wasteful some of our energies are spent. The people we failed to forgive our of our own vainglory, the ideas we held onto too tightly that were inventions of our imagination, the times we misjudged or failed to give another the benefit of the doubt and the times we just failed to bother to care at all.

Prayer, listening to the quiet parts of our innermost being, where God resides in our hearts, closer to us than we could imagine, brings us into a place where we not only can hear what God is really trying to tell us, but where the truth can no longer hide from us.

Or rather, where we can no longer hide from the truth.

The truth about us is that God loves us more than we could imagine. And that truth is enough to change us. It can make the most hardened criminal become a proverbial good thief, asking only for Christ to remember him, even the bad stuff and trusting that God could look beyond that into forgiveness to see more than the evil that he has committed.

Can we see the same in ourselves, seeing beyond our darkness, our most vulnerable parts to see what God sees in us? In fact, can we see that God touches all of who we are, even our most vulnerable pieces of our darkness, changing it, but only with our cooperation.

Prayer invites us to change. To see what is true about who we are and who we most hope to be. Today, I tried to be most satisfied with the person that I am. To know that I am enough as I am. To not assume the worst about myself or that others assume the worst about me. Fasting from the negativity that I most often entertain.

I spent time in prayer hoping to see and hear others as they are. To hear their concerns and be able to be there for them, to be present in the way that Christ is present to me in prayer, revealing to me what I most need to see and hear.

And I was able to spend some time to help another see God a bit more clearly in their lives, hoping to see a glimpse of God in them myself.

And it was more than enough.

It always is.

One Meal Offered

Day #4: Fast, Pray Give:

So I checked into BustedHalo this morning and found that they were asking me to give up one meal today. And it’s a morning that I was particularly hungry. So skipping breakfast was not going to happen. I was also trying to finish the egg beaters before they went bad.

So I chose to skip dinner. And I’m cranky already. In fact, I’ve been cranky all morning and very nearly fell asleep at my desk a while back.

I’m trying to practice what I preach. Each Friday I’m starting to gather students and young adults together for a simple Friday meal of Soup and Bread, an early gathering on their way home from school or work. This week we talked about what we needed to fast from, emotionally or physically. I talked about under-confidence, others talked about other things that weigh them down.

And to rid ourselves of these things we need to suffer, even if just a bit.

It’s hard to lose a few pounds, to get healthier when we have bad habits, to not eat when we’d like to gorge. But we need to keep in mind that this is actually a luxury for us! How many people would relish the opportunity to be able to say that they can fast from one meal? Most people in the world only get one meal a day–if they’re lucky.

And so for one day, I will be among them. I’ve put lunch off for a bit and will eat that soon before forgoing dinner. I’m trying to keep my energy up with other engaging things. Exercise usually makes me hungry if I do it in the afternoon, so that’s not going to happen for me today–and I’m working on a bunch of projects as well.

Keeping busy, isn’t the point though—mindfulness is. So I began to remember the hungry today–those who seek out food pantries and soup kitchens, those who won’t eat anything today and those far away who may not eat for several days. I watched the movie Hunger the other night about Bobby Sands who went on a Hunger Strike to protest the treatment of Irish republicans who tried to regain political status when it was revoked by the British government in 1976. Sure, ’tis a fine thing for us to be free in America and have the power to try and create change. For many, that is a pipedream.

We indeed do have much to be grateful for and many to pray for who have much less. Today let us keep the hungry in mind and recall that we can always find food somewhere. Others may not have that luxury.

Fast, Pray, Give: Day 3

There’s a difference between being hungry and being homeless. Whenever I do some kind of community service I find I’m more drawn to working with the hungry, but not so much with the homeless. Hungry people get their needs met by getting a meal, a temporary relief from the pangs of hunger. Even students who get a free meal from campus ministry are easily satisfied with a free meal from someone.

But it’s a lot harder to satisfy someone without a home.

What’s worse is that a good deal of the time the homeless can be nasty to us when we try to serve them. Dorothy Day even told Catholic Worker volunteers once that they should prepare themselves for that. “If you’re going to work with the poor, be prepared to work with ungrateful and hard-headed people.”

But aren’t we also a bit like that? I know this week I’m looking at a home I own in Queens that I’m having a hard time selling and I’m cursing my home. I have a leaky faucet in my house in the Buffalo suburbs and sometimes when there’s drama at home, I’d rather be somewhere else.

Home is not always where the heart is.

Perhaps therein lies the problem. We are not always satisfied with what we have, but rather are consistently and constantly searching for more.

And there are many who don’t even have the minimum, and we believe they should be happy with just getting that, when we’re not even settled when we have close to the maximum.

At Christmas one year I was on a subway with my then, roommate. We met a homeless man on the D train in the Bronx in New York City much too late at night. He smelled, he was a bit drunk, smoking a cigarette and the conductor could do nothing with him,

“Put that cigarette out!”

“Sorry, can’t hear ya,”

And it’s not like too many cops are around at three in the morning.

Eventually the conductor gave up his argument. And moved down the cars. It was then that the homeless man looked at us and said:

“Guys, I’m tired. I’ve lost everything and they’re trying to take more away from me. They took my house, they took my kids, they will probably even take away this old bottle soon enough. But they can’t take away what’s in my heart…they can’t take away my talent.”

Then he told us that he liked us and that he wanted to sing us a “tired song.”

And in that Christmas Season “Chestnuts roasting on an Open Fire” had never sounded better than when that man sung it for his heart. We laughed when he said “from kids from one to ninety-NINE” (the correct words are 92, to rhyme with the final words Merry Christmas to you”) but it was no matter. We were satisfied with that and so was he. He never asked for money, or even a bit of food. What he sought most of all that night was dignity.

And perhaps, just by listening to his song, we restored a bit of that to him that night. A tip of his cap as we left gave us a warm good-bye as if we were leaving an old friend of the family, and perhaps we were as 24 years later I still remember him.

We often hunger for more than food and the homeless often seek more than four walls. We get misguided in not being satisfied with what we have when others are deprived of the basics. In restoring dignity to all, we give other people an opportunity to be renewed, to see themselves as God does.

And it is more than enough.